High-tech, low impact: sustainable trends in the fashion & beauty e-commerce market

22 April, 2021
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E-Commerce

In recent years, any and every fashion and beauty retailer wanting to get ahead of their competition has put utilizing the latest technology at the heart of their marketing strategies. 

25% of all e-commerce brands are already using Facebook to sell products, Instagram introduced buyable posts through the Shops button in 2020, and VR “try it on” features are already in use by many major fashion and beauty brands, such as Sephora and GAP. (futureholidays).

Running alongside the latest tech trends has been the quiet but seismic movement towards sustainability which has impacted the fashion and beauty industries perhaps more than any other. Brands advocating organic cotton, recyclable materials, and “slow fashion” have enjoyed impressive growth as searches for “vegan leather” and “upcycled fashion” have increased by 69% and 42% respectively in the last six months (yieldify). For beauty brands, “waterless beauty” and “blue beauty” products – aiming to reduce water consumption in manufacturing processes and protect the world’s oceans – are rapidly garnering interest worldwide (UWP).

Success rooted in sustainability: Who’s doing it well?

Brands which have been quick to spot and act on this trend have reaped the rewards. Girlfriend Collective’s leggings made of recycled plastic bottles have proved highly popular, while outdoor clothing supplier Patagonia, known for its recycling scheme and dedication to renewable materials, has achieved a steady year-on-year growth of 13% (yieldify).

Blazing a trail for the future of fashion and beauty e-commerce markets are the brands able to combine high-tech solutions with a low environmental impact. As the COVID-19 pandemic prevented many shoppers from visiting brick-and-mortar stores, click and collect services and try-before-you-buy schemes have helped leading retailers minimize the environmental impact of returns.

With customers unable to see products for themselves, rising returns rates mean more products heading for landfill and more demand for courier vehicles to pick up returned parcels. To mitigate this, Amazon Prime Wardrobe, Stitch Fix, and Nordstrom have all recently introduced try-before-you-buy schemes, while fast fashion brands like Zara and H&M are investing in software to provide customers with more accurate fit and sizing information.

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How is sustainability impacting the fashion and beauty e-commerce markets?

For e-commerce retailers in the fashion and beauty industry, the rising demand for both technology and sustainability has posed a challenge. 49% of shoppers say that same-day delivery makes them more likely to shop online (sparksales), and 51% of retailers are already meeting that need, while 65% of retailers that don’t currently offer same-day delivery aim to within the next two years (invesp).

While customers naturally want to receive their purchases quickly and conveniently, one survey found that half of consumers also want to shop exclusively with retailers that offer sustainable delivery options (drapers). For some retailers, offering slower speed, but more sustainable services can benefit e-commerce business long-term, and may lead to a change in perception where a “good” delivery service is one that’s “good” for the planet – not simply the fastest.

More deliveries, fewer vans: the sustainable e-commerce dilemma

The pressure from consumers to provide sustainable e-commerce requires innovation, and many big brands are already successfully going green without compromising on quality. High-end fashion retailer Burberry switched to packaging made from upcycled coffee cups, removing 29 tons of plastic lining (cropper) yet maintaining the luxurious feel that lends itself so well to popular unboxing videos on social media.

The big question for fashion and beauty e-tailers, then, is how to provide the fastest delivery without impacting the environment? One of the most pressing issues is the number of delivery vehicles required to meet the rising demand for online fashion orders; one study found that the number of vans on UK roads each week could be reduced from 170,000 to just 4,600 if shoppers opted for click-and-collect rather than home delivery.

To combat this, brands are adapting their delivery strategies to offer more flexible click-and-collect options. Using QR codes and automated warehousing technology, Zara successfully trialed a pop-up collection point in a London shopping center, and Walmart’s Pickup Towers are notified when a customer is en route to ensure items are ready for collection within 45 seconds (RetailCustomerExperience).

For consumers unable to use collection points, logistics providers are increasingly investing in electric vehicles to offset their carbon footprint. DPDgroup recently pledged to triple its fleet of electric vehicles and introduced “Predict" and "Follow my Parcel”, a service which aims to stop multiple failed deliveries and prevent unnecessary van journeys by enabling users to change delivery times and destination even while the parcel is in transit (edelivery). In 2020, online fast fashion giant ASOS found it could save around 3 tons of CO2 by implementing specific time slot deliveries and zero-emission electric vehicles when compared to a diesel van making the same journeys (TheEcoBahn).

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The future is…

As well as buyer demand, the pressure is increasingly from government and local authorities to reduce the presence of e-commerce vehicles. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo publicly attacked Amazon and other logistics services for congestion and pollution, and the European Union is examining both the monopoly power of Amazon and environmental impact of its deliveries. For e-commerce businesses looking to challenge Amazon’s dominance, truly sustainable delivery could be the differentiating factor that draws customers in – particularly in the fashion and beauty sectors, where green credentials are highly desirable.

While there’s no one solution for sustainable e-commerce, e-retailers in the fashion and beauty industries are in a position to provide exciting, ethically-minded services that will be well-received by consumers keen to invest in business that benefits the environment – from sustainably-sourced packaging to lowering the carbon footprint of every parcel’s journey.

Asendia’s commitment to greener e-commerce

Asendia is a global shipping provider that partners with local couriers to offer an end-to-end logistics solution for e-commerce retailers that is both efficient and environmentally friendly. In 2020, our e-PAQ and Mail services to France and Switzerland, through our parent companies La Poste and Swiss Post, offered 100% carbon neutral delivery, and we offset all our CO2 emissions for transport within Europe.

We continue to work towards achieving our sustainability goals at every stage of the e-commerce supply chain, from packing and posting to last-mile delivery, and supporting fashion e-commerce retailers in implementing solutions that are good for both the environment and their bottom line. For more information on how to get ahead of the competition with greener e-commerce solutions, contact Asendia today.

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